How 2 Professional Organizers Work With Clients Remotely
As professional home organizers, my business partner and I have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent shutdown orders. Home organizing and move management is a very hands-on profession, and in-person time with clients is an important way we gain trust, build relationships and — from a very practical perspective — actually get the job done.
But people are spending a lot more time at home these days and may feel the need for help more than ever, so we’ve adjusted our business for current times. Here are the steps we are taking to work with clients from a distance. Perhaps our experiences will inspire you to work remotely with a home organizer to declutter or organize your own home. If you’re a pro, you might encourage your clients to do so before starting a remodeling or design project. Our approach also may inspire you with practical ways to adapt your own business for current times.
Step 1: Initial Assessment and Virtual Home Walk-Through
We’ve always begun our projects with an initial assessment, where we spend 30 to 60 minutes with a new client to understand their goals. These might range from a straightforward project like closet organizing or preparing a home for a new child to multifaceted projects like managing a cross-country move for two homes combining into one or designing all the storage for a custom home during the “blueprints” phase.
We spend a lot of time listening, as well as asking questions, so we can get a feel for a client’s working style and desired timeline. We still do all of this now. But we do it by Zoom or FaceTime instead of in person.
Step 2: Measurements and Photos
Before COVID-19, we toured a client’s home to get a feel for how they use their space and to assess the overall flow of the home. We did this in the first client assessment after we talked about goals. Typically, we start brainstorming and visualizing solutions at this point!
Since we currently are not able to work on-site, we now ask clients to walk us through their spaces via Zoom, FaceTime or emailed photos. (Pros who use Houzz Pro software also have a Video Meetings option for consultations and walk-throughs.) We may also ask for very specific measurements, which help us come up with very specific recommendations.
Step 3: Customized Plan and Schedule
Next we create a customized plan and timeline that we think would work best for our client. Our initial communications usually provide us with a good sense of a client’s decision-making style, work endurance and design preferences. We also ask about lifestyle, including such details as laundry schedules and sports routines, so that we can customize our recommendations. We want to ensure our client’s working sessions are short enough and spaced out enough to prevent mental or physical fatigue. And we consider whether a client may get emotionally overwhelmed or lack the physical endurance required for longer sessions.
Some clients work best under a general schedule, such as “Week 1: Review summer clothes,” whereas others benefit from a more detailed approach, such as “Monday: Review tank tops, Wednesday: Review skirts.” Still other clients prefer very defined guidelines such as “Select 15 boy’s T-shirts, four coats and 20 pairs of socks to keep.”
Our plans include both decluttering a home and organizing the items our clients choose to keep. We may design closet system layouts, work with custom closet vendors, recommend specific storage containers or advise on final placement of items. Our goal is to create systems that flow well with aesthetics that reflect our client’s style.
While many people associate home organization with minimalism, our mission is to create spaces that make our clients feel good about themselves and that evoke feelings of peace. To that end, we seek to create efficiency and a flow that makes sense for everyday tasks. We recommend ways to organize a space, which may include guiding our clients through what to keep, toss and donate. We don’t dictate what our clients should specifically keep or remove, but we do encourage them to keep things for the right reasons and guide them through why they may be keeping things for the wrong reasons (such as guilt). Ultimately, they have to do what feels right for them.
Step 4: Progress Check-Ins
To keep our clients on track and maintain accountability, we schedule regular progress checks. We use these sessions to review what has already been done and provide encouragement for our clients to stay the course. This is also the time to review whether the plan and schedule need any editing. For many clients, we find that organizing and styling one area completely before moving on to the next can be a great motivator to persevere.
Step 5: Ongoing Virtual Project Management
During this time, we have been able to continue managing projects such as garage and closet redesigns and installations. We can still research appropriate products and purchase them from vendors, though we must also plan for potential shipping delays. We take extra care to schedule installations on separate days to minimize the number of people on-site. And we absolutely research the COVID-19 orders for our clients’ locations before proceeding when we require vendors and contractors to be on-site.
However, one part of the process that has been affected greatly during this time is disposing of the items that have been decluttered. Since cities are reopening at different rates and with different guidelines, we are constantly checking our local donation and trash facilities for their current policies.
If our clients’ area does not yet have places open to accept items, we try not to let this deter our clients’ progress. They may have to set aside unwanted items in their home, garage, car or yard temporarily, or consider paying a junk-removal service. But they should feel good about their successes so far and know that they’ve finished the hardest part, and that it’s just a matter of time before the whole project is complete.